Murder, She Wrote 4.4 “Old Habits Die Hard”

This is exactly what I say to my supervisors when they ask about my thesis.

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Jessica is visiting a former Kappa Delta sorority sister, Claire, now Reverend Mother at the Immaculate Heart Convent in Louisiana.

The convent is in the jurisdiction of a town called Bergen Falls, however there is no town of such a name in Louisiana. From a number of clues throughout the episode, it seems like the convent is located somewhere in northwestern Louisiana — there’s mention of places like Blanchard, Shreveport, and Grand Bayou — however, at one point mother superior mentions that they have “the scrawniest tomatoes east of the Mississippi”, which would put it in a small wedge at the southeast of Louisiana.

Thanks to an anonymous contributor I found out that: “The convent scenes were filmed at Ramona Convent Secondary School in Alhambra, CA, an all girls Catholic Jr. High and High School. The school’s main building, where most interior and exterior filming was done, was irreparably damaged during the Whittier Narrows Earthquake on October 1, 1987, 10 days before this was aired. The main building was demolished December 11, 1987, 18 months short of it’s 100 year anniversary.”

Just the facts ma’am:

Spoilers are in white font, so highlight the text below to reveal the answers.

  • The victim was… an ailing nun!
  • killed by… the mayor’s wife!
  • in… her room at night!
  • with… an injected overdose of Metholityl! (as far as I can find, that’s not a real medicine, so I’m not sure whether the writers just made that up or I kept mishearing the name)
  • because… her husband fathered an illegitimate child 15 years ago and it would have messed up his political career! The nun was the only one who could have known where the illegitimate child’s mother could have been!
  • vital clues:  missing photo of the child’s mother; and a water pitcher still full of water.

Big names:


The biggest name in the credits also happens to be a repeat offender.  Eileen Brennan here plays the mayor’s wife, Marian Simpson.  She will come back to play a different character in another episode of MSW. You may recognize her from her roles in Clue and Murder by Death.


While you may not recognize Sherri Stoner’s face — she plays novice Sarah Martino here — if you’re a child of the 90s you might recognize her voice since she has done both voice-over work and writing for Animaniacs.


Additional roles were played by (from left to right): Jane Powell as Rev. Mother Claire; Audrey Trotter as Sister Paul; and Robert Prosky as Bishop Patrick Shea.  Jane Powell was a big star in musicals; Audrey Trotter starred in the sitcom Our Man Higgins; and Robert Prosky starred had major roles in many family movies, including playing a priest in Rudy with Sean Astin.  This episode of MSW was Audrey Trotter’s very last appearance on screen.

Repeat offenders & honourable mentions:


From left to right:

  • Ed Nelson playing Major Albert Simpson in his second of five appearances;
  • Evelyn Keyes playing Sister Emily in her second of three appearances (she played one of the O’Hara sisters in Gone With the Wind);
  • Clu Gulager as P.I. Ray Carter in his third and final appearance;
  • and Cindy Fisher in her second and final appearance.  This is also Cindy Fisher’s final appearance on screen in general.

An honourable mention goes to the three nuns playing (from left to right) Sister Margaret-Marie, Sister Margaret-Mary and Sister Mary-Margaret.  At the far left, playing Margaret-Marie, is Carol Swarbrick making her second of three appearances on MSW.

Other comments:

The episode offers a fun glimpse into young co-ed Jessica’s troublemaker past, such as climbing flagpoles and charming the dean out of giving her a three-day suspension.

It is also a nice locked-room mystery.  Some aspects of it remind me a bit of the board game Nuns on the Run, which is super fun—if you’re into board games, I highly recommend it! (And it’s not to be confused with the comedy movie of the same name starring Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane.)


You can also buy an original press photo of Angela Lansbury with Jane Powell as seen on this episode!

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